Blogs & The Media Council Code of Conduct

The various media organisations of Bermuda have put together and adopted a Media Council Code of Conduct. This is to be welcomed, and while the Code in itself seems fine, I encourage readers add their thoughts on how to improve the Code as is; feel free to do so below after reviewing it.

Now, while the various media organisations took the lead in drafting the code and adopting it they also reached out to some of the local bloggers for their constructive criticism. To me this showed that the media recognise that the blogs serve as a new form of media, as well as, in their own way, a form of watchdogs for the established media.

This blog, and I reckon all the others, do not claim to be media in the traditional sense. I am not a journalist, and to my knowledge none of the other bloggers are, or have any journalistic training. Our sites are little more than glorified letters to the editor, just our opinions and reactions to developing stories and events. Some of the sites are associated with some of the political parties, but most are not.

When the media announced their adoption of a Code of Conduct they listed the organisations that had adopted the Code. These included the traditional media, both newspapers and the various broadcasting companies. They also included some of the new media, such as the online news sites Bernews and Bermuda Network News. Curiously they also included the blog 21 Square.

Denis, the owner and author of 21 Square, has provided a post explaining his reasoning for making a point of being included under the Code. Basically he has done so in order to encourage ‘the other media and blog sites to adhere to the standards proposed by the Media Council Code of Conduct’.

While there is nothing wrong with those sentiments, as Denis admits it will be a bit of a stretch. Personally, I do not think the Code is applicable to blogs. At most I see it as a guideline. Furthermore, I am wary of putting the blogs in a position where they are subject to regulation. Just to clarify, there is nothing in the Code which I think poses a threat to my postings. In general I don’t think I personally write anything that breaks any of the Codes conventions. I don’t control what other people write, although I do try to moderate fairly and as little as possible.

So, while I respect Denis’ decision, I don’t really know what the practical benefits of doing so will be as far as blogs are concerned. My question to readers – and to my fellow bloggers – is should the Code apply to blogs and forums, and if so, how?

5 thoughts on “Blogs & The Media Council Code of Conduct

  1. Hey Jonathan,

    Largely I agree what what you have to say. In a bit of additional reasoning on my part, I was asked to support the code of conduct on a voluntary basis. It was not presented that blogs would be required to participate, but simply encouraged to do so.

    As you state, the bulk of the code is inapplicable to blogs. Primarily only the sections I felt had any bearing over what I write are public interest, accuracy, discrimination, incitement to hatred, financial/business journalism and user generated content. As I rather sarcastically stated in my post, given that I generally have always strived to adhere to personal standards that match much of what is layed forth, I don’t see this as a large leap to adopt.

    On a voluntary basis I didn’t see much harm in pledging to adhere to the standards proposed by the council. As far as actually being regulated by the council, that too would be on a voluntary basis and I hadn’t submitted myself to that as of yet. It is something I’m contemplating, though as I’ve also contemplated a long break from blogging (hence the lack of posts), I question the merit of doing so.

    As you state, “our sites are little more than glorified letters to the editor”. How much basis there is for regulation of our sites is somewhat questionable as the internet tends to self regulate in that it seems blog sites (not forum sites) that are most popular are those that already adhere to the standards proposed by the code of conduct. Those that don’t rarely attract the same levels of readership unless they’re tied to an organization.

    As long as the media council is self regulating and blog owners get their chance to be a part of the regulation I didn’t see much harm in volunteering to adhere to the code. What I certainly wanted to avoid was a situation where government feels blogs should be regulated and uses the non-participation of blogs sites in the council as reasoning for moving forwards with their own council where they specifically do move to regulate blogs.

  2. Worthy discussion and I’m glad you raised it, as a fellow blog author. The last paragraph from Denis was something that I didn’t think of when I initially read the article on who was signing on the Code of Conduct – by having at least one – and one of the more well-known, at that – local blog in the mix, it probably helps all of us.

    Question though, while the majority of local blogs appear to fall into a ‘safe category’ with regards to factual content and opinions, what about those that may be considered as extremist or of questionable material? Those would be unlikely to meet the tenets, yet their voices probably should still be available (a la free speech and all that).

  3. When it comes to blogs and the internet really little stops any individual from writing what they like and hosting it somewhere else in the world.

    For those writing under pen-names they really can’t easily be targeted by legislation. For those who don’t however I wondered if we could. I’d rather see people free to voice their views within reasonable constraints than essentially be forced out due to potential punitive action.

    The media council is largely voluntary and self policed. It’s a commitment to uphold a standard of quality that doesn’t involve punitive action and instead gives an individual the opportunity to request due recognition when that quality is breached.

    No blog or media outlet is required to participate, though encouraged. I could certainly see things evolving to encourage more participation such those who have adopted the code only promote others who have as well. As I suggested above, blogging is largely self-regulated in that I believe a large reason why my blog and blogs like this one have had any success is that we have adhered to a high personal standard where other blogs have fallen out of the limelight because they haven’t.

  4. My concern though is that your participation in the Council sets a precedent for blogs being held accountable under the Code, which could set the stage for future regulation of blogs. It is quite possible that the Government will decide later to go ahead with statutory regulation of the media, if they reckon that the voluntary system isn’t working, by their criteria at least. Should that happen they could argue that blogs too should be regulated.

    True, I don’t think it would be very easy for Government to regulate us, as most of us operate on systems based outside of the country. However, there is nothing stopping them initiating a fire wall, such as those used in China, Cuba and now Australia. There is always ways around that, but do we really want to start that kind of arms race? Then again, they can instigate that even without the precedent set by blogs participating in the Media Council as is. It would just be slightly easier to argue the case with blogs being involved with the Media Council.

    I agree that our blogs are media in the wide sense of the word, but in the more narrow sense with which it is commonly used, as news reporting, I really don’t think we qualify. Sure, once in a while we may have first hand access to breaking news and beat the proper media to the punch – although that is less likely now with the rise of Bernews. Alternatively we may have access to additional information not available to the proper media. I do try some degree of ‘journalism’ in that I do try and do some research on topics and ask questions when possible of relevant politicians and the like. I’m sure many of my fellow bloggers do the same, but does that qualify us as media in the sense of the Media Council?

    Furthermore, several of our blogs (well, at least mine) are associated with either political parties or explicit political ideologies. By definition we are politically biased as a result, which poses problems for us under what I see as the Media Council’s commitment to political neutrality (which will pose a problem for the Worker’s Voice too). Other media may be thought to be biased, but it is not always so clear as explicitly biased blogs like this one. I do, of course, try not to misrepresent rival political positions, and do my best to treat them with respect, but I am biased all the same.

  5. Pingback: Breezeblog adopts media code « Breezeblog

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